Tag Archive: Queen Christina of Sweden


The Marquise de Ganges

The Marquise de Ganges

It is 1656, in the ancient quarter of Saint-Germain-des-Pres, whose narrow alley ways and high houses, the tops of which touch each other above the street, have always favourized the most equivocal fermentings of the mind.  In this sombre XVIIth Century, throughout which flames regularly devour witches, the little Rue d’Hautefeuille, bordered on one side by a disused Jewish cemetery and on the other by student lodgings, is no exception.  It could even be said that inside the few houses with little towers in this street, magi and fortune-tellers, adept in all types of mancies, are in charge of Paris.

One October afternoon, a young woman who is barely twenty years old, wearing deep mourning, has her carriage stop at the entrance to this little street.  If she wasn’t completely veiled, it could be seen that she is very beautiful.   So beautiful that the whole of the Court of the young Sun-King [Louis XIV] is ecstatic about it.  So beautiful that the Queen of Sweden, visiting Versailles, cannot refrain from saying:

“In all of the kingdoms that I have crossed, I have never met a woman who can compare to this beautiful Provencale!”

This beauty had been married at thirteen to an amiable officer fifteen years her senior.  She had very much loved him.  But he had recently died at sea after seven years of a happy union.  Now, his young widow is about to remarry, in obedience to her parents’ wishes.  This time her husband will be a gentleman of her own age, the Marquis de Ganges, Governor of Saint-Andre-de-Majencoules, an advanced post in the Cevennes.  The Marquis is also very beautiful, and so joyful!  Always dressed in the latest fashion, frequenting the best Parisian tailors, he is to be seen at Versailles at both the Petit and the Grand Risings.  He is always hunting, often in the King’s company.  He is exactly the same age as Louis XIV.  To resume, he is a perfect cavalier, who will go magnificently with this young, rich heiress…

Catherine Deshayes, wife of Monvoisin

Catherine Deshayes, wife of Monvoisin

A high oak door, flanked by torches, a flight of marble steps, and the young woman is at the lodgings of Catherine Deshayes, the wife of Monvoisin, whose profession is fortune-teller.  Upon entering the vestibule of the one whom the Greats, her clients, call La Voisin, the future Marquise has a moment’s hesitation.  She is shown a sinister hallway all hung in black and constellated with cabalistic signs.  But the maid leads her smilingly towards the magician’s lair.  The place has obviously been decorated by a succubus with refined taste and everything is intended to put the visitor in the right mood.  Between the standing statue of Belzebuth and a set of mirrors which allow people from the Past and from the Future to be seen, La Voisin lolls in an Egyptian armchair.  Fascinated, the young woman contemplates behind her a very crude allegory representing lust…

Draped in dark taffeta studded with little green dragons, her face hidden under a sort of nun’s cornette, La Voisin appears wary at first, and wants to know why the young woman has come to her.

“In a few days, I will have to make a capital decision.  I would like your spirits to advise me.”

The magician relaxes and tells her that she will ask them to answer her.  She asks her not to say anything but to write down, on the piece of paper that she hands to her, the questions that she wants to ask the spirits.  The young woman does not want to write anything down, fearing that the paper could be used against her.  La Voisin assures her that she will burn the paper before her eyes.

The young woman takes the pen which is being held out to her, backs away and writes two lines on the paper, which she then gives to the clairvoyant, who rolls it into a ball and drops it immediately into the mouth of a furnace where aromatic herbs are burning.  Using an elementary sleight-of-hand, La Voisin has of course hidden the paper on which is written:

“Am I young?  Am I beautiful?  Am I a girl, a woman, or a widow?  Should I marry or remarry?  Will I live a long life, will I soon die?”

She leaves, having made an appointment to return in three days.  The time needed by the spirits to come up with the answers.  The time needed by La Voisin to gather information from one of her many spies who investigate for her around Paris…

When the future Marquise returns, she hears this:

“You are young, you are beautiful, you are a widow.  Soon you will remarry…”

Then, touching the head of a stuffed salamander with big orange spots, she concentrates for a moment then says this, which is true clairvoyance:

“I have to tell you…  yes… I have to tell you, that you are going to die young!”

The young woman wants to know whether the cards ever make a mistake.  La Voisin replies that they rarely do.  The young woman begs her to try again.  The fortune-teller slowly rises and goes towards her oven.  In a recipient she takes a pinch of resin which she rolls in what appears to be incense, then throws the little ball into the fire.

A green and blue flame rises, which she carefully inspects.  She turns back toward the young woman.

“There is little hope…  You will die young from a violent death!”

***

To be continued.

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As we have already said, Christina’s refusal of marriage has been explained by a sexual malformation, and hermaphrodism has been mentioned.

Did she think herself unfit for a fruitful marriage because of a physical imperfection?  She did say:  “I would give birth to a Nero rather than to an Augustus.  What a lovely gift that would be for my country!”  Nothing leads us to believe that this imperfection really existed.

However, at the age of fifty, she thought that she was becoming a man.  Surprised to see “an excrescence of flesh in a place which made her hope to have become of our sex” – these are the words of the dispatch sent by the French Legation Attache in Rome to Minister Colbert de Croissy, dated 2 November 1680 – Christina communicates her doubt to her doctor, then successively to her chambermaid, her surgeon, to a Jesuit priest and even a cardinal who was very high up in her good graces.

The excrescence gets bigger.  It is believed that the Queen has become a king.  It is only after a second examination by the doctor, that he recognizes his mistake, and sees that it is a prolapsus of the uterus.  Here is the precise account of it given by Colbert de Croissy.

“The Queen of Sweden was surprised, four years ago, to see an excrescence of flesh in a place which made her hope to have become of our sex.  She communicated her doubt to her doctor, to a chambermaid named Ottavia, to Mr Dalibert, to Marquis del Monte, to her confidante named Maria Candida, a nun at the Santa Cecilia Convent, where she went on purpose, to her surgeon, to Marquis Pignatelli, to Father Pallavicini, a Jesuit who had sung her praises, and to Cardinal Azzolin.  They kept the secret for a long time.  However, this excrescence grew a lot, remaining in a form which confirmed their hopes.  And one day, the chambermaid whom I have named and who is very pretty, having touched it to see what would happen, it appeared such that the doctor threw himself to his knees, and said to her ecstatically, in Latin:  Salve, rex Suecorum!  She gave the same vision and the same experience to the nun.  The Marquis Pignatelli, who had also sung the praises of this princess, saw it as well, and her hope was such, that she had herself painted in armour, helmet on head, visor raised, with the inscription of only one of her names:  Alexander, Suecorum rex, for her name is Christina-Alexandra.  She also wanted to show this novelty to Cardinal Azzolin, who assures me that he never wanted to see it, as he is very devoted and says Mass every day…  After all this, the excrescence grew so much three months ago, and so changed its form, that the doctor noticing rather late his own ignorance, knew that the neck of the womb had fooled him by falling out, but that remedies were very necessary to stop the entire collapse of this part.  She stayed in bed with the pretext of a sore foot, things returned to normal, and I am able to assure you of the truth of all of these circumstances with no exaggeration, but which are known as exactly as I recount them by those whom I have named.”

In spite of a carefully maintained auto-suggestion, Christina’s last illusions vanish.  A woman she was, and a woman she would remain.

Queen Christina has been placed in the intermediate zone between healthy and ill people.  But this classment is very vague and needs more precision.

For Dr de Sarlo, the Queen of Sweden was just an hysteric.  Neurotic pathology admits a form, morbid in itself, characterised by a collection of very different phenomena, such as egoism, vanity, contradiction, moral insensitivity, a tendancy to dream and to roam in search of adventure, thoughtlessness and intellectual vivacity, all things which can be seen, for the most part, as a consequence of weakness of willpower and which characterised Christina.

Dr de Sarlo says:  “If we think about the course of events in her life, we can immediately see that, if she had received a different education, and if she had been able to apply her genius and the exuberance of her mental activity to great and glorious enterprises, she would not have appeared to us as an hysteric.”

Her mood changes and her frequent contradictions show her mobile mind;  her travels are the indication of the particular state which psychiatrists have named dromomania.  She felt the imperious need to do everything the opposite way to everyone else, to show herself to be unique by her acts, her tastes and her opinions.

One after the other, she showed herself to be humble and haughty, rude and indulgent, very feminine or very masculine, according to the circumstances, or the time of day.  Sometimes she gave herself up to exaggerated devotional practices, then to the most uncontrolled shamelessness.

Wanting to accept Catholic dogmas, she does not intend submitting herself to the domination of priests.  Always detesting hypocrisy, she imposes no control on her words or her thoughts.

Was Queen Christina an hysteric?  In other words, did her comportment have a pathological cause?

Nothing proves that the impetuous character of Christina was a symptom of this neurotic illness which is also hereditary.  Her mother’s unhinged and morbid mind is not in itself the result of hysteria.

Queen Christina was an active woman with a character all of one piece.  She possessed uncommon passion and vitality which were unquestionably perverted by an atypical education.  Therefore, it would be imprudent to look for a medical cause.

If she had lived today, she would have been perceived as your average rock star, avid for publicity, Tweeting and Facebooking, with her own webpage broadcasting her scandalous behaviour to the world.  She’d have loved it, but she would have been disappointed at not being absolutely unique in this comportment.  There are dozens of her now.

All of the extravagances which we have seen up until now, are nothing compared to the Monaldeschi scandal which will definitively stain Christina’s reputation.

The Queen is convinced that the secret of the expedition which she had decided to undertake towards Naples, was revealed to Spain by her Grand Equerry, Monaldeschi.  He is supposed to have imitated Santinelli’s writing so that he would be accused instead of himself.

Accompanied by four men, by two guards and by Santinelli, Christina summons her Grand Equerry.  He tells her that he had acted to save her reputation.  By copying the letters written by Santinelli and giving them to her, he was keeping her informed.

Christina doesn’t believe him, and leaves him in the hands of the seven men, with Father Le Bel to take care of his soul.  The priest takes pity on the condemned man and begs the Queen to pardon him.  In vain.  The Queen refuses.  She is calm and without anger.

Santinelli gives him the first sword thrust and wounds him in the hand.  Perhaps anticipating the danger, Monaldeschi had worn a coat of mail.  Unfortunately, it prolongs his execution.  Because of it, the sword thrusts badly wound him, but don’t kill him.

In the end, one last blow to the throat makes him fall.  He turns toward the wall and, after a few more minutes, he dies.  The massacre had lasted three hours.

Mazarin has immediate knowledge of the assassination, and advises Christina to cover it up.  Why not talk about a duel between gentlemen which ended badly?

But the Queen, sure of the justice of her act, makes it known.  Still full of  her royal prerogatives, she thinks that she has acted like a queen.  She possesses a sovereign right (noted in the act of abdication) and intends to use it.  Even if she is far from her country, she considers herself to be absolute sovereign in her household.

She seeks neither to hide it, nor to justify herself, and will strongly criticise all those who try to take the blame away from her.  “I intend to render account only to God, who would have punished me if I had pardoned a traitor for his enormous crime, and may that be sufficient for you!”

She will remain another few weeks in Paris, to the great despair of the court and in particular Mazarin, who is incapable of sending away such a prestigious guest, but wants to see her disappear fast.

In spite of different diets, Christina ages and her health degrades.  She becomes fat.  Her voice is more masculine and her pilosity more abundant.  Never clothes-conscious, she is now scruffy, but she still has her beautiful eyes and majestic carriage.

She has frequent migraines, accompanied by insomnia, which she attributes to her too great assiduity for work.  She only wants to take viper powder for her headaches, which does not help much.

She has periodic spurts of temperature, strongly resembling paludism, which is then rife among her little court.  She also complains of rhumatism.

She continually puts off being bled because she is afraid of the operation.  Many times, she sends for the barber, who comes, waits, and finally goes away again, without having taken out his lancet.

She also suffers from intercostal neuralgias, which her doctors do not at all understand.  She treats herself with milk, convinced that it is the best remedy for her illness.

She finally consents to having a few palettes of blood drawn and declares that she feels much better.  But the pains in her side still persist, alternating with pains in her back, in spite of enemas, apoplexy balm, hellebore and other more or less active drugs.

Her strength of character allows her to resist for a long time the assaults of both the illness and the remedies.  But the hour arrives when she has to admit that she is beaten.

She passes gently from life on 13 February 1689.  She is sixty-three years old.

She is transported on a ceremonial bed, her face uncovered, to Saint Peter’s Church, at the Vatican, then inhumed in the sacristy, an honour reserved, until then, only for cardinals.  The Pope will not live long enough to build her the monument he wanted to raise to her memory.

Tenth and last part tomorrow.

On leaving Paris, Christina stops at Lagny to visit the famous Ninon de Lenclos, “locked up, by order of the King, in a monastery, because of a few kindnesses of her profession”.  Queen Christina is so pleased with their interview that she writes to His Majesty asking him to release such a kind and friendly person, doted with so many other qualities.

Unfortunately, she did not limit herself to this innocent request.  She seems to have taken it upon herself to challenge public opinion, or at least to disconcert it, by her indiscretions.

At court, the Duke de Guise having pointed out Mlle Mancini to Christina, she makes her a great bow and leans down very low on her chair, to continue the civilities.  She always puts herself between the King and the lady, and tells them both that they should get married, and that she wants to be their confidante.  Addressing herself more particularly to the King, she urges him to only marry a woman whom he loves.  All of these speeches, are not to the Dowager Queen’s taste, nor the Cardinal’s.

Madame, the Duchess d’Orleans, mother of the Regent, who had heard about the Queen of Sweden from “the late King” (Louis XIV) has left us a curious portrait of her.

“Christina never wore a nightcap, but wound a serviette around her head.  Once, when she couldn’t sleep, she had music played near her bed.  As the concert was to her taste, she suddenly stuck her head out between her curtains and exclaimed:  “Devil’s death!  Don’t they sing well!”  The castrati and the Italians, who are not the bravest of people, were so terrified at the sight of this strange face that they remained mute and the music had to stop… ”

She also said of her that she was “very vindictive and gives herself up to all sorts of debaucheries, even with women…  She forced Mme de Bregy to some turpitudes and the lady was unable to defend herself… ”  She adds, however:  “This Queen would never please women, because she disdains them all in general.”

This loud aversion for women is one of the main grudges held against Christina.  While she is at Fontainebleau, several ladies, going to greet her, advance to kiss her.  She doesn’t like this and exclaims:  “What rage these women have to kiss me!  Is it because I look like a man?”  However, she sometimes allows herself to be seduced by women, if we believe what Prince Edward, Palatin of Bavaria, says in a letter addressed to his uncle, the Duke of Mantua.

“We made a very pretty trip to Auxerre these last few days, to see incognito the Queen of Sweden:  which we did, my wife as lady-in-waiting to the Marquise de Mouy, and myself as her equerry.

“The Queen having recognized us, and not wanting to show it, teased us strongly, and even the Marquise de Mouy, about how well she chose her people, and whispered up close to us, a thousand civilities and particularly to my wife, to whom she showed the most obligingly in the world, the great displeasure she felt at not being able to give us, in the state in which she found us, the marks of estime and affection which she felt for her, telling her to be sure that she felt it, and told us a thousand other gallanteries with very good grace.

“All of her postures are those of a man and not at all those of a woman.  So, the most agreeable praise that can be given to her is to tell her that she is the most honest man in the world.

“She loves beautiful women.  She found one at Lyon who pleased her.  She kissed her everywhere:  the throat, the eyes, the forehead, very lovingly and even wanted to kiss her with her tongue in her mouth, and sleep with her, but the woman didn’t want to.

“Mr de Guise gave her three of his wigs as a gift, and she always wears one of them with a hat loaded with feathers, that she always holds in her hand when speaking.  She wears a jerkin and a cravate at the neck.  She does not appear to have a woman with her, and only a few men.

“That is what we saw, My Lord, on this little trip.”

Another source, less reliable than the former, tells us of a different episode.  Christina had taken a fancy to the Marquise de Ganges.  While the famous painter Mignard was doing her portrait, the Queen of Sweden proclaimed that the Marquise was Nature’s most beautiful chef d’oeuvre.

The ardent Queen writes to her:  “Ah!  If I were a man, I would throw myself at your feet, submissive and languishing with love;  I would pass my days there, I would pass my nights there, to contemplate your divine attractions, and offer you a tender, passionate, and faithful heart.  But since I am not, let us limit ourselves, beautiful Marquise, to the purest, the most confident and the firmest of friendships.  On my side, that is all that I think;  but my burning desires are not satisfied.  Your beautiful eyes, you know, are the innocent authors of all my suffering;  they alone can, in an instant, repair the damage, and make my happiness by their softening.  Would you, alas, refuse me one of your gracious looks?  No, No;  as sensitive as beautiful, you will listen with kindness to the tender moans of my deep suffering, and I shall spend the rest of my life in painful enchantment.

“While waiting for an agreeable metempsychosis to change my sex, I want to see you, to adore you, and to tell you of it every instant.  Until now, I have searched for pleasure everywhere and have hardly tasted it.  If your generous heart would take pity on mine, upon my arrival in the next world, I would caress it with constantly renewed delight;  I would savour it in your victorious arms, and make it last eternally.  In this sweet hope, I live the days of my life, and my happiness grows thinking of you.

“So, pray to Heaven, beautiful Marquise, that my wishes be fulfilled, as much for your own felicity as for mine, which depends entirely on you for the present and for the future.”

Can it be concluded that Queen Christina had homosexual affairs?  Fiery in everything, she writes the way that she lives, with no restriction and straight to the point.  Other letters sent by her, to men this time, also give the impression that there was sexual commerce between Christina and the letter’s recipient.  Her writing style of excessive preciosity, current at the time, and her taste for provocation, can explain the indecency of her letters, but are not sufficient  to prove that her passionate impulses were ever consummated.

Ninth part tomorrow.

Dressed as a man, the Swedish Queen’s appearance is remarkable by her negligent attire and her physical imperfections, but also by the glow of her eyes.  According to Christina, her sunken shoulder is due to a female servant who threw her down a flight of stairs, by order of an enemy sovereign who wanted to take her throne.

In a letter kept at the Harley Library, Christina’s physionomy appears deformed to the point of caricature.

“Her body is completely irregular:  she is hunched, she has a hip outside architecture, she limps, she has a nose longer than her foot, her eyes are fairly beautiful, but her sight is not good;  she laughs with such bad grace that her face wrinkles like a piece of parchment that is put on hot coals;  she has one tit lower than the other by half a foot and so buried in her shoulder that it seems that half of her chest is absolutely flat.  She stinks so honestly as to oblige those who approach her to take precautions and protect themselves with one hand.

“The way that she is dressed is no less extraordinary than her person, for, to distinguish herself from her sex, she wears very short skirts, with a jerkin, a hat, a man’s collar or a handkerchief which she ties like a cavalier going to a party;  and when she wears a cravate like the ladies, it doesn’t stop her closing her shirt to the chin and wearing a small man’s collar with cuffs like the ones that we wear, so that, seeing her walking with her black wig, her short skirt, her closed breast and her raised shoulder, she looks like a disguised face.”

In 1654, she puts on men’s clothes so as to travel more easily throughout Europe.  In Rome, she surprises everyone by mounting a white horse like a man.  In Paris, she is also on horseback, still astride.  In Venice, she mounts in pants, and in Vienna, she appears with Turkish trousers.

Star attraction for the court and the people of France, Christina is awaited with a certain amount of impatience.  Her reputation has preceded her, and everyone wants to see her and speak to her.

Mme de Motteville describes her arrival at Compiegne with her “straight wig, her man’s shirt, her slightly hunchbacked body, her quite well-made hands, but so dirty that it was impossible to notice any beauty”.  The lady’s remarks are indulgent compared to the reports of Brienne and particularly la Palatine.

During the first days of September 1656,  Christina arrives at Fontainebleau.  En route, she is greeted by Mlle de Montpensier, daughter of Gaston d’Orleans, brother of Louis XIII.  La Grande Mademoiselle was on her way to Essonne to see a ballet.

She says that she had heard so much about the way that Christina dressed that she was worried that she would die of laughter on seeing her.  Suddenly she hears:  “Get out of the way!”  and the crowd is invited to let the Queen’s carriage through.  That’s when the King’s niece is able to examine the noble foreigner and describe her silhouette.

“She had a grey skirt, with gold and silver lace, a street merchant’s jerkin, the colour of fire, with lace the same as the skirt;  at the neck, a point de Genes handkerchief, tied with a fire-coloured ribbon, a blond wig and round at the back, like women wear, and a hat with black feathers which she was holding… ”

With her usual perspicacity, Christina could not avoid noticing the ascendant exercised by Mazarin over the Queen.  But she remained persuaded that, “in the friendship of these two people, there is nothing criminal…  gossip has wronged the virtue of this princess”  the most virtuous in the world, of an exemplary piety and incapable of disobeying the rules of honour.

It is at Compiegne that she speaks to the Prime Minister about her projects.  She asks France to help her become Queen of Naples and promises to take a son of the French royal line as her successor.  Mazarin’s answer is evasive enough for her to not insist further.

This will be the constant attitude of Mazarin toward Christina.  As diplomacy demands, he will never reproach her with anything, but will carefully avoid her whenever he can, and when her scrapes become too compromising.

She gets on better with the young King who, although very timid, talks to her freely and not without some enjoyment.  As for the Queen, she is unable to hide her surprise when she sees Christina.  Although she had been warned about her originality, she is still astonished by her.

This woman dressed as a man, who looks like a man dressed as a woman, possesses a gift which has always conquered the French, the gift of seduction.  But her nature rapidly takes over and, as in Rome, her impertinence, after having amused, shocks.

Eighth part tomorrow.

At first, Christina is very popular in Rome.  The Pope dines with her.  There are two tables, one foot apart, because, according to etiquette, no person of the female sex may dine at the same table as the Pope.  No female is allowed to kiss his cheek, only his hand and his slipper.  After dinner, a drama is performed, with musical accompaniment.

Rapidly, however, her excessive arrogance, her scrapes and her excentricities begin to displease.  Alexander VII had ordered the cardinals to remain silent during services.  Christina laughs out loud during them.  She is an Art lover, and visits numerous churches and palaces where she openly mocks the modest covering of naked sculptures with vine leaves.

Only the Pope is respected, because she considers him to be above her.  She maintains a certain deference toward the cardinals, but is odious with the other important Romans.

No durable and deep affection can be found in her, apart from the cult of her own person.  Egoism, vanity, the mania for performing in public, for “making herself interesting”, are not the only characteristics which distinguish Queen Christina.  Her immorality compared to Church dogma, or just to Italian mentalities, offends and horrifies her hosts.  The Pope, himself, has difficulty in putting up with her jokes.

One day, when he had had delivered to her a magnificent rinfresco, that is to say, fruits, jams, game and other provisions, Christina greets it with “in Rome, the business of war is not well understood, since castles are given supplies before being beseiged”.

Another thing demonstrated by accounts of her stay in Italy, is the effort she makes to have everyone talk about her smallest actions.  This need to let the public know about her every move, shows a bloated vanity.

She needs to act in contradiction with the actions of ordinary people, and to show herself to be unique in everything she does, as well as by her tastes and opinions.  The worst insult for her, is to imitate her.

She is impatient to leave Rome, and takes the pretext of an outbreak of contagious disease, to flee this inhospitable city, where she is so misunderstood.  She hopes that France will give her a warmer welcome.

Christina is thirty years old when she arrives in France, in August 1656.  The King sent his Grand Chamberlain, Duke Henry de Guise, to meet her on her entry into his kingdom.  To amuse his sovereign, the Duke sends him the following letter, giving his first impressions of the Queen:

“She is not tall, but her body is full and her backside wide, her arms are beautiful, her hands white and well-made, but more a man’s than a woman’s;  one shoulder is high and she hides this fault so well by the strangeness of her clothing, her walk and her actions that it could be disputed.  Her face is big without being defectuous;  all her features are the same and strongly marked;  an aquiline nose, a fairly big mouth, but not disagreeable;  her teeth are all right, her eyes very beautiful and full of fire;  her skin, in spite of a few smallpox marks, is fairly bright and beautiful;  a reasonable facial outline, accompanied by a very strange hair-do.  It is a man’s wig, very big and raised high above the forehead, very thick on the sides, with very light points at the bottom;  the top of the head is a mass of hair, and the back has something of a female hair-do.  Sometimes, she wears a hat.  Her corset laced behind, on a biais, is made almost like our doublets;  her shirt, hanging out all around, over her skirt, which she wears rather badly attached and not very straight.  She is always heavily powdered with a lot of pomade and never wears gloves.  She is booted like a man, and her tone of voice is male, as are most of her actions.  She sees herself as an Amazon.  She has at least as much glory and pride as the great Gustave, her father, must have had.  She is very civil and flattering, speaks eight languages, and principally French, as if she had been born in Paris.  She knows more than any Academy and the Sorbonne put together;  admirably knows painting, as well as all other things;  knows better than I, all of our court intrigues.  In short,  she is a really extraordinary person.  I shall accompany her to court through Paris;  so you will be able to judge for yourself.  I do not think that I have forgotten anything in her portrait, except that she sometimes wears a sword with a buffalo collar, and that her wig is black, and that she has nothing on her breast except a scarf of the same.”

Seventh part tomorrow.

One of the principal traits which characterise neuropaths is a mania for travel.  They are mobile, anxious, going from town to town, running from country to country, never finding a permanent home.

After her abdication, Christina thinks only of tasting the full charms of unlimited liberty, and has only one desire:  to roam freely throughout the world, with no ties nor restraints.

She goes first to Flanders, and arrives at Anvers during the first week of 1654.  A few days later, she enters Brussels.  In this town, she gives herself up to many excentricities.

She pulls faces at the multitude which follows her around to see her.  She changes clothes inside her carriage, with the help of a clown, to confuse sightseers, who are unable to recognize who is who.

She swears, or makes an off-colour joke, at the most solemn moments.  She suddenly assumes a cabaret posture and bursts out laughing while some great person is talking to her.

It is in Brussels, where she stays for several months, that she abjures Lutheranism, and converts to Catholicism.  Should we list among her usual oddities this sudden religious change?  Is her artistic soul drawn to the pomp and ceremonies of the new cult to which she adheres?

What we can say is that she has only a surface devotion, and the Church dignitaries, themselves, understand that.  However, such a powerful recruit cannot be disdained.  Perhaps she has also inherited from her father Gustave-Adolphe his mystic religiosity, and it is this which disconcerts those who are surprised by her new avatar.

She intends to compose with religion the same way that she does with other social customs.  She writes to one of her friends:  “I don’t listen to sermons;  I have no respect for orators;  after what Solomon said, everything else is foolishness;  for each must live happily, eating, drinking and singing.”

Someone even hears her say:  “If there is a God, I shall be really caught out.”  Her motto is:  deprive yourself of nothing, whatever damage you may do to others.  Her whims alone are her rules.  This causes her a few problems when she visits Rome and France.

Her contradictions are innumerable.  Today she wants what she didn’t want yesterday.  She will not want tomorrow what she wants now.

There are moments when she gets angry with people who dominate her by their prestige, like the Pope.  There are other moments when she shows herself to be humble and submissive to them, ready to implore their pardon.

These mood changes have the most futile causes.  Although she flatters herself on being a lover of liberty and of simplicity, she cannot tolerate that any ceremonial detail be omitted in her presence.  Most of her fallings-out with ambassadors of foreign powers have practically no other motive.

Continuing her travels, she arrives in Collen, where she dresses as a man, and calls herself the son of Count Dohna, so as to voyage with more liberty.  But the Queen of Denmark, having learnt of her disguise, dresses up as a cabaret servant so as to approach her without being recognized by her.

At the other extreme, when Christina arrives in a city, she dresses in a gala costume, and has herself loudly announced.

The death of her mother, the dowager Queen of Sweden, curbs her fantasies.  For three weeks, she deprives herself of all public company.  She spends several months in Flanders.

Having had everything prepared for her trip, and sent to Sweden for a fairly important sum of money, pretexting that she wants to go to Spa to take the waters, having arrived too late the preceding year, she leaves Brussels on 22 September and travels to Rome with a suite of two hundred people.

She wants to see Venice, but the Republic creates a few difficulties about according her free passage, because of an eruption of plague.  She only stops in a village, where she is complimented by the Deputies of the Doge and of the Senate, who present their homages to her and have refreshments served.

Then she continues on her way to the Eternal City.

Sixth part tomorrow.

Bourdelot did not only give Queen Christina’s physical health back to her;  he also improved her mental health.  He discouraged her from studying too hard, by organizing entertainment or by telling her ridiculous things.

Bishop Huet says in his Memoires:  “He took it upon himself to remind her of the mockery heaped upon females who prided themselves on their scientific knowledge, by the ladies of the French court;  he made her laugh as well, by his jokes and witty remarks.”

The atmosphere at court changes, and the doctor, mocking and irreverent with the great lords, becomes more and more important.  Christina’s enemies go as far as suggesting more intimate relations between the two of them.  A lot of people dislike him.

Among all of the learned men surrounding Christina, Bourdelot has only a mediocre rank.  However, the Queen, who likes to relax from her very serious discussions, enjoys his company, and he makes her laugh.

Bourdelot, knowing the influence of amusement on health, particularly for those of nervous temperament, encourages her in her innocent whims.  One day, she decides to force Saumaise, who always dresses with great simplicity, to only appear at court dressed in full military uniform, including the buffalo-skin armour and plumed hat.

Another day, she obliges the grave Bochart, always ready to fire up on any philosophical or historical subject, to play shuttlecock with her, while Meibomius sings one of the tunes from that music of the Ancients about which he had written a thick book.  It is understandable that the princes hated the French doctor.

A young woman of fragile health, but organizing her life in defiance of the rules of hygiene, overexciting her brain and her nerves, seeking arrogant self-satisfaction, avid of flattery and applause, revelling in her intellectual and material superiority, always active, leading all of her business, her studies and her amusements at the same devilish speed, Christina is not an easy patient for a doctor.  Bourdelot had to keep her under constant surveillance.

Capricious and volatile, Christina does not follow his advice for very long.  She does not stop working, does not want to sleep more, and is not protected from accidents.

In May 1652, she gives her doctor a great fright.  During an inspection of the Swedish fleet, Admiral Fleming falls into the water and, trying to grab hold of something, drags the Queen in with him.  She is scarcely dry, when she mounts a horse, and travels around the town to reassure her subjects.

In June 1654, Christina hands the sceptre to her cousin Charles-Gustave and, immediately afterward, leaves Sweden for the States of Philippe IV, in Flanders.  A few months earlier, she had called the Senate and announced her intention of abdicating.  “For this, she was not asking their advice, only their co-operation.”

Then, she prepares to leave.  She gives orders to arm a fleet, to wrap up her collections, her gold and silver plate, her furniture and her jewels.  She leaves at the castle only two rugs and an old bed.

By voluntarily descending from the throne, Christina intends to live from then on with no restraint, and to listen only to her own feelings and instincts.  However, if she renounces her power, she wants to preserve her condition and her rank.

Fifth part tomorrow.

At the age of eighteen, having reached her majority, Queen Christina begins to show her true character.  The protection which she accords to the Arts, causes her to be compared to Minerva.  She is referred to as “The Pallas of the North”.  Now, however, other important obligations need her attention.

First of all, she must have children.  But, from the moment that Christina mounts the throne, she realises that she absolutely does not want to get married.

Her habit of wearing masculine clothes, and the way she treats members of her own sex, have given her an unmerited androgynous reputation.  It must be remembered that, at her birth, a servant showed her sex to Gustave-Adolphe, to prove to him that the new-born was a girl.  Her refusal to marry has therefore nothing to do with any sort of malformation.

Christina is unable to bear the idea of belonging to anyone.  She does not want “a man to use her like a peasant uses his field”.  It is clear that Christina is worried, even disgusted, by the thought of procreation, indissociable with marriage.  Her aversion for pregnant women is an example of this.

Her excentricities have given her a reputation for libertinage.  She had lovers, but she is not a nymphomaniac.  Her sexual life tends to incline more toward chastity than to debauchery, even though it is true that she prefers to be surrounded by men, and treats them familiarly.

This form of love which she finds so repulsive, will oblige her to make numerous sacrifices.  Some of them emotional, like when she distances herself from Count Magnus, whom she loves.  Others political, like when she abdicates because she has provided no heir to the throne.

It has been said that her refusal of marriage shows Christina’s determination to rule alone.  She certainly has a passion for power which procures her undeniable pleasure.  However, Queen Christina is also perfectly conscious of her duties, not the least of which is maintaining the monarchy.  For this reason, she prefers to abdicate rather than govern the country alone.

This political act, stemming from an aversion to maternity, can be explained by the unusual, not to say absurd, education which she received.  Her father treats her like a boy, and the example of her mother, with her morbid adoration for her dead husband, can only discourage her from wanting to be a woman, a wife and a mother.

Diverse circumstances in her fairly adventurous life, lead us to believe that she was constantly in search of sensations which she knew she would not be able to find within a marriage and with a husband.

Her extremely neglected appearance is connected to this incapacity to assume herself as a woman, the object of men’s desire.  She does absolutely nothing to make herself attractive.  More than once, she is seen with ink stains and tears in her lingerie.  It is also noticed that she only combs her hair once a week.

At the same time, she makes no effort to be agreeable to members of her own sex.  Generally speaking, she feels only great disdain for them.  The only ones to find grace in her eyes are a few very pretty ones, like Mme de Bregy.

Bad diet and too much intellectual and physical activity rapidly exhaust Christina.  She studies enormously, undertakes long rides in the forest or goes sleigh racing, sleeps little, and feels neither cold nor heat.  She eats food that is too rich, and drinks daily “half a glass of brandy, with well-ground pepper at the bottom”.

In spite of her great vitality, her health deteriorates.  In 1651, she faints at her mother’s place, and thinks she is dying.  She recovers, but realizes that her body is very weak.  She calls to the court Pierre Michon, known as Bourdelot, the Prince of Conde’s doctor.

Barber, barber’s son, charlatan canonised by fortune, great valet of apothecary and of all Arabian bragging, liar, cheat and trickster.  These are a few of the lesser epithets with which Guy Patin, doctor and contemporary writer, charges Bourdelot.  Saumaise, one of the Queen’s inner circle, obtains the post for him.

Bourdelot’s epigrams, his small talent, his knowledge of perfume, of cuisine even, help him win the young sovereign’s favour.  It must be said to his credit, that he looked after her with both intelligence and success.

The doctor treats the Queen differently from the Stockholm doctors.  He prescribes for her chicken broths, veal cutlets, and other lighter foods.  In spite of her allergy to water, he makes her bathe every day, and administers refreshments to her.

The court doctors and the aristocracy believe the Queen to be in danger of death when they see her take such remedies.  However, after a month, dizzy spells, fits of anger and insomnia disappear.

Fourth part tomorrow.

Christina of Sweden’s childhood is spent in an atmosphere of nightmare and sobbing.  She even has to suffer it at night because her mother insists on having her by her side, even in her bed.  Her already fragile temperament must have been affected by such behaviour.

As well as this, Christina is the second daughter of Marie-Eleanore and Gustave-Adolphe.  She was preceded in life by another daughter who did not live long.  Between the two births, her mother had miscarried.  After these two losses, great hopes were placed on this future birth.

They wanted a boy, and the tiny being who came into the world was so hairy and dark that the father, at first, thought that it was.  A servant presented the child’s sex to the King, to show him his mistake.  It was a girl.

As time passed, her features became more pronounced and her voice and appearance became more and more masculine.  It had to be admitted that the astrologists who had predicted to the King that he would have a son, had been only half-mistaken.  Her mother never recovered from this disappointment.

Gustave-Adolphe, on the other hand, became very attached to this daughter, who gave all the signs of having a precocious intelligence, which seemed as if it would also be much higher than normal.  He took her with him to the camps, and had the military exercises performed in front of her.  She accompanied him when he went hunting, and dressed in male clothes on these occasions.

When she was only four years old, Gustave-Adolphe, before leaving for what would later be known as the Thirty-Year War, carried his daughter in his arms to the Senate to have her recognized, from that moment, as the future Queen of Sweden.  It is easy to see how different her life might have been if the King had not been killed as soon as he was.

She is scarcely six years old when she loses her father and is left with a mother who, formerly indifferent toward her, will then love her to the point of suffocation.  She is mentally shaken from an early age.

On top of that, the education which she receives from her father contributes to the development of her fiery temperament and her aversion for women.  In fact, she was not taught to be a princess;  she was taught to be a prince.  Christina, herself, tells us how she was raised:

“The King gave the order to everyone [her governors, the five officers of the Crown whom her father had assigned to her as tutors] to give me an entirely virile education and to teach me all that a young prince should know to be worthy of reigning…  In this, my inclinations seconded his designs marvellously well, for I had an aversion and an invincible antipathy for all that women do and say.  I found their clothes, accessories and manners unbearable.  I never wore a headdress or a mask, I took no care of my skin, my waistline, nor the rest of my body, and, except for cleanliness and honesty, I disdained all the trappings of my sex.  I was unable to suffer long clothes, I wanted to wear only short skirts, particularly in the country.  As well as that, I had such lack of ability for all their handiwork, that it was impossible to teach me any of it.  On the other hand, I learned with marvellous facility all the languages and all the exercises that anyone wanted to teach me.”

Her passion for study borders on frenzy.  She says that she consecrates twelve hours a day to work.  Taking exaggeration into account, it can still be said that she gives herself up to it with such enthusiasm, that she sometimes forgets to eat and drink.  It is true that she doesn’t eat properly and endures frequent digestive problems.  These dietary digressions and an unhealthy life-style will catch up with her later.

Philology, History and Theology are the basis of all education at that time.  However, Christina also studies, one after the other or simultaneously, Latin and Greek, French and Spanish, German and Italian.  The historians of Antiquity and the classic authors fill her with admiration.  Extremely intelligent, she learns quickly and is passionate about different domains.  However, this enthusiasm causes her to suffer from a certain amount of overwork.

Early on, she is accustomed, in particular by her father, to be conscious of her greatness, of her rank and of her power, and she is given the habit of speaking of her victories, of her armies and of her people.  From her majority, she is persuaded that she is the absolute arbiter, not only of her kingdom, but of the whole of Europe, whose destinies depend entirely on her wishes.

The words “my greatness”, “my glory”, are constantly pronounced or written by her.  In her old age, when she talks about her life, she will recognize only one person above herself, God, to whom she dedicates her memoires, as being the only judge worthy of such an honour.

This deep consciousness of her power and of her functions result in her wanting to be kept up-to-date on everything and, if the explanations she demands take too long to arrive, there are tantrums and tears.

Third part tomorow.

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